Writer and Director: John Dower
Writer and Presenter: Louis Theroux
Featuring: Marty Rathbun, Steve Mango, Marc Headley, Tom De Vocht, Jeff Hawkins, Andrew Perez (as David Miscavige) and Rob Alter (as Tom Cruise).
After 25 TV specials focusing on some of the most intimate and angst-ridden aspects of the human condition: religion, racism, sexuality, criminal justice and mental health, Louis Theroux has returned with a feature film about Scientology.
Using actors mixed with candid interviews between Louis and the ex-members, the film shows an amusing determination to make the documentary with increasingly bizarre interactions with the current members of the organisation where the crew are followed, filmed and confronted. All the while Louis Theroux continues to attempt a balanced perspective of the church, but the strange behaviour and constant re-buffing of the Scientologists reveals a disturbing reality.
Marty Rathbun, an ex-member and at one time the ‘Inspector General’ (the most senior executives in Scientology), responded to Louis Theroux’s call to partake in the documentary. While re-enacting an abuse scene, Marty says to Theroux, ‘I thought you liked the idea of having your face ripped off.’
‘But that was only play acting.’
Where Marty responds, ‘Exactly.’
When Marty makes this statement, it really brought home the devious nature of the religion.
Marty goes on to explain how the counselling is conducted by the Trainers, and how anxiety is cleared through the use of the e-meter. If the machine registers a response while the subject is holding the paddles, then the thought causing the anxiety will be revealed and discussed with the counsellor until the machine no longer registers a response. That means the anxiety has been cleared.
An effective counselling technique that is no doubt very helpful to the person discussing and dealing with negative thoughts.
Marty then explains how the church plants the idea that every good thing that happens in your life is because you have cleared these anxieties and is therefore to be attributed to the church and to Elbert Hubbard. And then to go on and to also contribute every bad thing that happens to the fact you’re not practicing the principles of the organisation correctly and therefore everything bad thing in your life is your fault.
This is how the church of Scientology creates a psychological trap and therefore exerts mind control over its members.
I’d recently seen another documentary on Scientology, ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief‘, also featuring Marty. Going Clear shows a negative account of the church’s practices with more focus on the tax exemption of the church as a registered religion.
Louis takes a more personal interest in Scientology with a genuine motivation to get the organisation’s side of the matter; which is continually rejected.
You can see that Louis is concerned that his advances towards the Scientologists are rejected because he’s brought Marty on board. And through-out the documentary there is tension between Marty and Theroux: an interesting personality clash where each man attempts to stare the other down.
I can understand Louis holding a negative view towards Marty, always wondering what this man has done as the ‘Inspector General’, and if he’s speaking against the church out of rejection and spite.
And here we can see the continued drive from Theroux, to be open and see the church in a positive light. But the church in its harassment and complete inability to even acknowledge Louise’s attempt at conversation only reinforce what Marty is sharing.
The success of My Scientology Movie is the revealing insight into the psychological damage that can be caused by just trying to the do the right thing, and showing the depth of control of the organisation, I mean church, that can, understandably, make you paranoid.